Low income housing, also called affordable housing, is rental housing that has been made affordable for those with sub-standard incomes. Low cost housing may or may not be owned by the government. Low income housing is usually governed by a governmental agency that makes sure the property owner is providing a safe dwelling for the low income tenants.
Low income housing is typically available to anyone who meet certain economic guidelines, such as “must meet the definition of family”, and “applicants must be 18 years or age”. A person who makes below a certain amount will be eligible to live in low income housing and their rent is often subsidized by the government agency. According to HUD, eligibility is based on annual gross income, disability or family status, citizenship or immigration status, and references. These amounts vary from state to state and city to city based on the cost of living in that area. For example, a family of 4 in NY cannot exceed 38,400.00 in New York City while in Boulder Colorado, the income limit is approximately $45,000.
Government housing projects (also known as public housing) are a type of low income housing. This is often provided in a grouping of high rise building where the working poor and people on public assistance live. This method of low income housing is becoming less and less prevalent as it becomes more apparent that by grouping low income people together, you perpetuate a cycle of poverty that continues into the next generation.
Section 8 vouchers are another type of low income housing. It is governed by HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and provides most low income housing through a voucher program called Section 8. The section 8 program provides pays a portion of a tenants rent based on income, thereby providing low income housing. Voucher recipients pay 1/3 of their rent out of their own income. Section 8 pays the remainder. If rent is 500.00 a month, and the tenant makes $900 a month, then the voucher pays the remaining $200.00.
The United States is not the only country known for having low income housing and public housing, nor did they invent it. The first low-income housing project is reported as being built in Helsinki Finland in 1909. It was built for city workers and had tiny rooms. The apartments had running water, toilets, and a pantry.
The goal of low income housing is not to provide rent free living, but to help a family afford a decent home for their family. A tenant who defaults on his or her share of the rent or who breaks the lease agreement in other ways could lose their rent subsidies altogether. Also, the majority of tenants receiving low income housing are still responsible for a portion of their rent. The amount they are responsible is calculated as 30% of their adjusted monthly income. Exclusions are also made for each dependent, and for the disabled.
The state of low income housing is evolving as housing projects are deemed inappropriate for low income families, and the government is focusing on finding people low income housing that they can be proud of in order to provide a better quality of life. Old projects are currently being demolished and people are being relocated using voucher systems instead of housing them together in high rise buildings.